Disney streaming service muscles up to Netflix

Disney streaming service muscles up to Netflix - 22nd December 2017

FILMS will vanish from your Netflix library and you will end up paying more as the streaming giant faces a big new threat.

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by James Law

NETFLIX is set to face a major challenger in the video streaming space after Disney announced a $US52.4 billion ($A68.3 billion) deal to buy 21st Century Fox’s assets.

The plan means Disney will be able to offer an impressive content line-up when it launches its own streaming service, because it will control all of the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox movies and shows.

Picture a streaming service with all of these titles in the one place: Every Star Wars movie; every Marvel movie including The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok; every Disney movie including Frozen; every Pixar movie including Inside Out; Avatar and its upcoming sequels; X-Men, Ice Age, Alien, Planet of the Apes, Predator and Independence Day franchises; sitcoms The Simpsons, Modern Family, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers; dramas The X-Files, This Is Us, The Americans, American Horror Story and Buffy; and the suite of National Geographic nature programs.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger with the mouse himself. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSource:AFP

The deal may also add Oscar-bait movies from the Fox Searchlight studio — such as Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years A Slave, and Birdman — to Disney’s streaming service.

Some of these titles are already on offer on Netflix in Australia, but Disney is likely to pull them all from the service as licences expire.

It’s not yet clear what the new streaming service will look like or what it will be called, but CEO Bob Iger has confirmed that the company will launch a Disney-branded offering in 2019.

“We’re not looking to necessarily reach the scale of Netflix quickly but we certainly aim to be an able competitor to theirs,” he told Good Morning America.

This family-friendly rival to Netflix could be complemented by a beefed-up, adult-oriented streaming destination Hulu, which Disney would have a controlling stake in after the merger. Hulu, which is not officially available in Australia, was behind the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale, which won the Emmy for Best Drama this year.

Disney also has plans to launch an ESPN-branded sports streaming service in 2018, likely to be home to US baseball, ice hockey and grand slam tennis tournaments.

Mr Iger said the company wanted to give customers the ability to pick which services they wanted, or sign up for all three.

While it’s not known whether the streaming offerings would be rolled out in Australia, Mr Iger said the deal would give Disney a “much larger international footprint”.

“The deal will also substantially expand our international reach, allowing us to offer world-class storytelling and innovative distribution platforms to more consumers in key markets around the world,” he said in a statement.

Fred Schebesta, co-founder and CEO of Australian comparison site Finder.com, said Disney would “no doubt be including Australia in its long-term streaming plans”.

“Established players like Netflix and Stan sign multi-year deals, so while the impact of the deal might not be immediately apparent in Australia, it’s likely to reverberate later down the track, especially as it could create something of a land-grab for other, non-Disney rights,” Mr Schebesta told news.com.au.

Aussie customers are likely to see Disney and Fox titles disappear from Netflix over the next two years, though current Marvel shows, such as Daredevil, will remain.

As a result, Netflix is doubling down on its expensive strategy of producing its own shows and movies, such as The Crown and Stranger Things, so it doesn’t have to rely on content from other studios. The streaming services plans to spend a staggering $US8 billion ($A10.4 billion) on original content in 2018.

All of this means that it will be harder and harder for Australian customers to find a streaming service that offers all of the movies and shows they want in the one place, which will mean having to pay for multiple services if you want access to all of the best content.

“When you factor in free streaming catch-up TV services, original video from social networks, and increased fragmentation in the paid streaming service space, things are looking more fractured than ever. And that’s not going to change anytime soon. In fact, it’s going to get worse,” Mr Schebesta said.

“I don’t think we’ll realistically see a one-stop shop for all shows and movies. There are still multiple channels on free-to-air TV, and the same extends to streaming services.

“I predict we’ll see more Aussies plan-hopping as they subscribe to tune into their favourite shows, then unsubscribe when it’s over.”

The merger is yet to be approved by government regulator the Federal Communications Commission, the US equivalent of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Twenty-First Century Fox executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch is also the executive chairman of News Corp, which publishes news.com.au